An EXCLUSIVE interview
(Yes, THAT Paul Young!)
By Stephen SPAZ Schnee
Los Pacaminos plays music from the heart. Their blend of Tex Mex, Americana, Country, Folk, Blues, and Rock is passionate and inspiring. Play A Fistful Of Statins for your friends and they'll be certain that the band is made up of musicians who have spent the last few years traveling the U.S., baking under the hot summer sun during the day and sleeping in ramshackle motels at night. Their rootsy sound incorporates many influences that were born and raised along the border between the U.S. and Mexico: haunting pedal steel guitar, gently plucked and fervently strummed acoustic guitars, accordion, harmonica, and melodies that harken back to the wide eyed innocence of early Rock 'n' Roll. Upon further investigation, it may surprise the listener to find out that Los Pacaminos is not based in Texas or Tennessee - they are actually from the UK. Not only that, the band features some pretty talented musicians including Pop/Soul vocalist Paul Young, Drew Barfield (formerly of Power Pop legends The Keys), Matt Irving (who has played with many artists including Squeeze), Melvin Duffy (pedal steel player extraordinaire), Jamie Moses (Tom Jones/Queen/Pretenders) Steve Greetham (Joan Armatrading/Julia Fordham) Mark Pinder (Zaine Griff/Alison Moyet) and Jim Russell (Scotty Moore, Elvis Costello, Bob Geldof). Even veteran musicians Hamish Stuart and Robbie McIntosh make appearances on A Fistful Of Statins.
While Paul Young may be the most familiar face in the line-up due to his string of hit singles in the ‘80s – “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home),” “Come Back And Stay,” “Oh Girl,” and “Everytime You Go Away” to name a few - the band is a true collaborative effort. With vocals and songwriting provided equally by all the featured members, Los Pacaminos are far from a side-project for Young… or any member for that matter. Formed 20 years ago, the band was an informal project that allowed the members to embrace their love of American Roots music. The first Los Pacaminos album was released in 2002 and it showcased a band that had a passion for the Americana/Tex-Mex sound they admired. Twelve years on, the band has finally released their follow-up album and it is giant leap forward. Each and every track on the album sounds as warm and familiar as a trip to grandma’s house, yet they are all self-penned gems apart from the cover of Jay & The Americans’ “Come A Little Bit Closer.” A Fistful Of Statins is the type of album you should be playing all summer long at family BBQs and chili pepper-eating contests. One spin of this album and you too might be convinced that A Fistful Of Statins is the best Americana album to emerge from the UK since… the first Los Pacaminos album in 2002!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with Paul Young to discuss Los Pacaminos and the new album….
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: A Fistful Of Statins is about to be released. How are you feeling about the reaction so far and the long journey to get to the second record?
PAUL YOUNG: You’re one of the first who have actually heard it outside the band and the record company so It will be very interesting to see how it goes. We did take a long time making the album. That’s mainly because it was never made to be a going concern and we did the first album out of politeness really because the fans wanted us to make an album. Then we did the second one because we just thought well, we’ve being going 20 years now. It was about time we actually should. When we put all the songs together that we’d written in bit and pieces, we weren’t sure we’d have a cohesive album. But then we got about a third of the way in and the engineer was going, you know this is going to be better than the first. We were going, yeah, it does look that way, doesn’t it? And so, I don’t think we really know how good we are until we actually sit down and see what we’ve got and then it’s a surprise to us.
SPAZ: I think this is a more confident Los Pacaminos record. It sounds much looser and you seem comfortable in your own skin, so to speak. In a perfect world, “Jump Back Baby” could be a number one single. It has such a wonderful melody ….
PAUL: If it’s a song that we’ve written that’s got a vague Orbisonist quality to it then it always goes to Drew (to sing). That song is yet another one that has got very definite Orbison qualities to it.
SPAZ: What inspired the whole idea of Los Pacaminos?
PAUL: We formed in ’92. I became engrossed in it because I thought, well if we’re gonna do Tex-Mex music I really gotta explore the genre. So I was really, really buying lots of it and listening to lots of it. When I made my solo album (1997’s Paul Young), it was difficult to separate the two projects (solo career and Los Pacaminos). It’s getting kind of easier now. There is a song on the new album that I wrote as a Paul Young song. I’m working on a Paul Young project at the moment, but its covers. So that song wasn’t going to see the light of day for a long time and I thought well, all the Pacaminos played on the demos, so I offered it back to the Pacaminos.
SPAZ: You’re the most well-known member of the band, so does it surprise your fans when they realize that you are not the only lead singer for Los Pacaminos?
PAUL: Yeah, when people come to see us for the first time, they still have difficulty with that. You always get one or two adverse comments… One of them said, “You should stick to Soul music Paul” and it wasn’t my vocal in the song (laughs). Then another girl said, “I don’t like where you’re going with this at all, Paul. You’ve lost a fan.” They don’t think that I can go up and do something else and do it equally well. I started the band. I try to steer it as best I can, but at the same time, I want the guys to have input. It’s so important. So, I just want to be able to steer it in the right direction and the fact that Drew sings some of the songs doesn’t make me any less proud of it because I wrote the song and I knew where it was going.
SPAZ: How did you end up meeting each of the guys? I’m a huge Drew Barfield fan from his work with The Keys.
PAUL: Yeah. Undiscovered talent, but he never got the breaks. He’s a really good songwriter, and he still sounds like a 24-year-old boy. I came across him because of his songs. I covered one on my second album, The Secret Of Association. Then I covered a couple more, and I thought I better start writing with this guy because I really like what he’s doing. We co-wrote a couple of things for me as a solo artist. When I decided to get Los Pacaminos going, it was quite important to me that I was back in a band and not the focal point of the band so I said, “I want you in it because I think we should share songs.” I asked Jamie to be in it because Jamie has got a good voice even though he’s a guitar player first and foremost. And that was the idea - I just wanted to be in a band. I’m a reluctant solo artist. I took the (solo) deal because there was nothing else coming up (laughs) and no one wanted to sign the band I was in and to be truthful, the band I was in didn’t like a few of the ideas I had… it wasn’t much more than that really
SPAZ: You’ve got a revolving rhythm section. Who played on the album?
PAUL: Mark Pinder couldn’t make the recordings. He’s the first and foremost drummer so, we got Jim Russell who is another Pacamino. And also we save little places for people. We always save a place for Robbie MacIntosh. He does a couple of solos. Robbie’s on the first album. He’s a Pacamino, as well. Now the band is growing and we found Jim Cregan recently who has only done a few gigs. He didn’t make it on the record. There are plenty of people out there that play in the band once and then go, “Anytime you want, call me.” It’s fun. Just really happy music to play.
SPAZ: “Come A Little Bit Closer” is a cover. Are all the others originals?
PAUL: Yes, it’s all originals apart from that one.
SPAZ: “The Girl From Tennessee” sounds so authentically Americana, it could have been written at any point here in the States during the last 50 years. I had to double check that it was an original!
PAUL: (chuckles) Really?
SPAZ: Now, why did it take so long for this record to come out after the last one?
PAUL: Because we get involved with the playing and the gigging and everybody’s got other jobs to do so unfortunately, it gets put to the back burner a lot. I said to the boys, “We really shouldn’t wait this long next time because some of us won’t be here and we really should have a third album.” I also think this material is crying out to be put into movies. You know, all those spring break semester films…
SPAZ: I’m thinking this is the perfect soundtrack to the summer here in California.
PAUL: Yeah, I’d love it to be that. And like you said, songs like “The Girl From Tennessee,” they’re all based on what we see when we go to America.
SPAZ: Well, the record is a very cohesive. I see it as a love letter to the music you guys enjoy…
PAUL: Yeah, it is. It’s a definite move on from the first one. I think we have matured a little bit.
SPAZ: Before your solo career there was Streetband, there was Q-Tips and now there is Los Pacaminos. Do you feel more comfortable in a band environment as opposed to being a solo artist?
PAUL: Yeah, I do. When I made solo records, I always got great players. I didn’t get them in to tell them what to do - I got them in and I said, “What would you do on this?” And I’d listen to what they would come up with. I didn’t always use it, but I listened. That’s the way it is with the Pacaminos. Everybody’s got their input and I welcome that and just want to be able to keep the focus. I know it moves away from being a basic Tex-Mex band. I think we’re more a cowboy band that’s playing border music. That is the best way I can put it really.
SPAZ: This record could possibly introduce you to a whole new audience that is completely unaware of your solo career.
PAUL: There’s a part of me that wants to be able to say that I went away from something that I knew was good and was successful, then started something else and that too became successful. That would be great.
SPAZ: What’s been spinning on your record, CD, and DVD players?
PAUL: My kids have been saying, “You’ve got to watch Breaking Bad.” I’m just on the first series. The most recent things I’ve been listening to? There’s a guitarist by the name of Tomatito, he’s a Flamenco player that I really like. I kind of just discovered him. And as far as pop music goes, the latest one is Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” which I think is fantastic.
SPAZ: So, do I see a Miley Cyrus and Paul Young duet in the future?
PAUL: (Laughs) I don’t think so! But my favorite at the moment is “Happy” by Pharell Williams….what’s not to like about it? I think the last perfect pop record I heard was “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse - everything was in the right place. And it’s the same with “Happy” as well. It can be played on the radio for years.
Thanks to Paul Young
Special thanks to Matthew Ingham and Dana House
A FISTFUL OF STATINS